Leeds 'gym addict' diagnosed with incurable cancer - after climbing Mount Snowdon with collapsed spine

A self-confessed gym addict from Leeds has been giving the devastating news that she has incurable cancer, after unknowingly climbing Mount Snowdon with a collapsed spine.

By Abbey Maclure
Saturday, 12th October 2019, 5:01 pm
Updated Sunday, 13th October 2019, 10:18 am
Gemma Sisson, aged 38 from Leeds, has said she is 'lucky' to have support from family and friends after being diagnosed with incurable cancer
Gemma Sisson, aged 38 from Leeds, has said she is 'lucky' to have support from family and friends after being diagnosed with incurable cancer

Gemma Sisson, aged 38, first noticed a marbled-sized lump on her groin in 2017. Doctors dismissed the lump as an ingrown hair before it began to get painful when she was training at the gym.

Eventually, Gemma, who lives in Leeds city centre, moved GP practices and her new doctor immediately recognised that something was wrong.

After many tests and a biopsy, Gemma was diagnosed with pelvic cancer and underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy at St James' Hospital.

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Gemma had seven hours of spinal surgery after tumours on her spine caused vertebrae to collapse

-> Leeds' women share pain over 'catastrophic' impact of endometriosisGemma said: "The doctor originally asked me what I thought it was! I was so fit and healthy and wasn't very poorly at first, so I think that actually didn't help.

"You can look and feel healthy, but still have cancer. I think it's so important people know that.

"I was such a fitness addict and always in the gym, so you wouldn't have thought it would happen to me.

"If you aren't getting answers from your doctor, you have to keep pushing."

Gemma has recently got back together with long-term partner Ricky Moore, 39, who she says has been an 'amazing' support after her diagnosis

The radiotherapy caused severe damage to Gemma's ovaries, triggering instant menopause and leaving her infertile. But Gemma says despite painful damage to the skin around her pelvic area after treatment, she healed quickly and is 'lucky' that her body responded so well.

By January this year, doctors told Gemma there was no evidence of the active disease. But she began to suffer with back pain in March and it became so severe by April that she visited her GP.

It was again dismissed by the doctors as just a muscular problem.

-> Baby Vinnie shares birthday with mum to keep Leeds family's tradition aliveDespite the pain, Gemma made the gruelling climb up Mount Snowdon in May to raise money for the Bexley Wing, but the week after she suffered severe neck and back pain and realised her head was at an unusual angle.

But with doctors still telling Gemma it was a muscular problem, she jetted off on holiday to Las Vegas, California and then onto Canada.

Only on returning to Leeds in early August did Gemma finally undergo an MRI scan and get a diagnosis - there were tumours on her spine, causing the vertebrae to partially collapse.

Gemma said: "At any point my spine could have completely collapsed, making me paralysed. I was climbing up the Hollywood Hills without realising!"

After seven hours of gruelling spinal surgery, Gemma had to recover before she had tests to identify whether the cancer was primary or secondary.

On September 26, she received the devastating news that the cancer is secondary and incurable, therefore can only be managed with treatment for as long as possible.

Gemma added: "I'm still processing the news. I only found out a week ago that 99% of the time secondary cancer is incurable, so that was a shock to the system.

"Last time I was really lucky, I could still do quite a lot but this time will be different.

"I'll miss the exercise because when you're unwell, you don't have much control of your body.

"You're going to lose your hair and have loads of injections and exercise is the one thing you can control. Not being able to do that will be really, really hard."

-> Cancer wing at St James's Hospital Leeds to open for public toursFriends and family have rallied around Gemma, with two friends creating a GoFundMe page to raise money to help Gemma while she is out of work.

As she is self-employed in project management, she will find it difficult to obtain work contracts and pay her rent.

An incredible £12,500 has been raised in just two weeks which will give Gemma enough money for day-to-day expenses and special holidays.

Gemma wants to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights and travel to Italy with her partner Ricky Moore, who is 39.

The couple were together for 14 years before they separated in December 2017, but they have recently reunited after Ricky supported Gemma through her recent surgery.

Gemma said: "He's not the most emotional guy, but he's amazing, he can't do enough for me.

"I've had so much support from friends, my boyfriend and my family. I've been so lucky."